August 20, 2012

Goodbye to Phyllis Diller.

She was 95.
Diller was nearly 40 when she began performing, with five children and a successful career as an advertising copywriter. At the time, women were a rarity in the world of stand-up comedy.
Thanks for all the laughs! Here she is on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1969:



AND: Here she is roasting Reagan:



"If you ever get to be President, and I think you may...."

AND: Many commenters are talking about Diller's skill on the harpsichord. Here she is flaunting her talent to Liberace:

27 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Nuts. I appreciated her great abilities.

The Crack Emcee said...

Awww - now that one got to me.

I loved Phyllis.

A true ground-breaker, in every sense of the word,...

Indigo Red said...

She posed for Playboy, but the pictures were never published.

jr565 said...

Before I offer my condolences I want to find out if she was into anything new age (ie reflexology, vitamins etc.) if so, f her.

Sorry, I was channeling Crack there for a second...

ricpic said...

The female Bob Hope.

Thorley Winston said...

Definitely one of the great ones. Heaven just got a lot more interesting.

Chip Ahoy said...

Ninety-five is awesome. She joined Roseanne Barr in Hawaii for an episode of Roseanne's Nuts show along with that other ugly Jewish chick, I think, and I was amazed how hilarious she is still. She drank a lot of whiskey or something gasoline-looking or else faked getting lit very well, but I had no idea she was that old. Can you imagine drinking until you lit when you're that old? I would find it easily on YouTube if I could be arsed by searching [grannie's night out roseanne's nuts] .

Kit said...

RIP Phyllis Diller, the anti-June Cleaver. Thanks for the laughs.

Quaestor said...

She did the Henny Youngman schtick better than Henny Youngman, and without a violin. But she did use either an outrageous gown or an outrageous hairdo to the same effect as Youngman's horribly (and seldom) played violin.

I once met Phyllis Diller in person. She was walking into a restaurant just as I was leaving. She said "Hello, young man" as we passed. I turned and replied in kind.

"You don't remember me?" said Diller. Suddenly I recognized her. Diller was in my town filming a low-budget horror movie called "The Boneyard" and everyone knew she was around. She wore a tasteful and expensive-looking light gray suit with a sky blue blouse and pearls. Her hair was brown streaked with gray and quite short. She wore manish wire-rimmed glasses. In short Diller's appearance that evening was the total opposite of her onstage persona.

"I'm so sorry I failed to recognize you," I replied.

"Don't be." she said with a giggle and not the trademark laugh.

"Good luck with your movie, Miss Diller. And enjoy your dinner."

To this day I don't know why she greeted me first. Perhaps she confused me with another local, many of whom had auditioned for roles as extras.

Methadras said...

Ah man. She was awesome. I hope Joan Rivers isn't next.

Ipso Fatso said...

Did she write her own stuff? Something tells me that she did unlike many other comedians. RIP Phyllis.

Quaestor said...

Did she write her own stuff?

Since Diller was a former advertising copywriter, a profession demanding considerable talent, I'd say that was a good bet.

Palladian said...

Weird, I just watched the episode of "The Muppet Show" with her as the guest star.

The Crack Emcee said...

jr565,

Before I offer my condolences I want to find out if she was into anything new age (ie reflexology, vitamins etc.) if so, f her.

Sorry, I was channeling Crack there for a second...


Considering the difference, between my response and yours, I'd say the only thing you were "channeling" was the space aliens in your mind.

Get a life, jr, mine's taken...

Deb said...

There's a wonderful documentary about Phyllis Diller called Good Night, We Love you. She was extremely intelligent, an accomplished harpsichordist and if I remember correctly, she did write her own jokes. She was brilliant, I am sorry to see her go but glad she was around for so long. ("Get a life, jr, mine's taken..."Crack, that was funny.)

furious_a said...

RIP to a neat lady. And they DRESSED for those shows then, unlike the three-day growth and untucked shirts on 'Jay' or 'Letterman' now.

edutcher said...

She was the intro for the Kingston Trio when they were first catching fire.

And, yes, she was very good.

Grandma Bee said...

In the comments on the original article, somebody asked why the article didn't mention Diller's ability at the keyboard. I remember her appearing on Johnny Carson, and playing a remarkably complex Harpsichord piece with flair.

jr565 said...

Hey Crack, Phyllis didn't believe in religion, but she did swear by a book called "THE MAGIC OF BELIEVING" by Claude M. Bristol

http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-Believing-Claude-Bristol

Here's what it says about the book:
For more than four decades success-oriented Americans have turned to the no-nonsense, time-tested motivational techniques described in The Magic of Believing to achieve all their long- and short-term goals: a better job, an increased income, a happier marriage, or simply a good night's sleep. Now it's your turn to put Claude M. Bristol's special "magic" into your life and into action!

His tough-minded, hard-hitting message speaks directly to You. It has yielded proven results for forty years and remains as fresh and focused as ever. Learn how to:

* Harness the unlimited power of the subconscious mind and make your dreams come true

* Protect your thoughts and turn them into achievements

* Use "the law of suggestion" to step up your effectiveness in everything you do

* Apply the power of your imagination to overcome obstacles

AND MUCH MORE!!!!


Man, that sounds positively Tony Robinesque to me. And Phyllis Diller swore by that book. In fact her and Liberace both say it helped make their careers.
IF I were you, I'd take back your kind words towards Phyllis,since she too believed in NEW AGE!!!!!

jr565 said...

From Phyllis Diller about her magical thinking:
The turning point came about three years before she entered show business. Finding little inspiration from organized religion, she stumbled upon the book The Magic of Believing, by businessman Claude M. Bristol. "I soaked it up!" says Diller. Her pal Liberace (whom she says "was not a good pianist but a wonderful entertainer") had also read the book. They would talk about it endlessly.... "But The Magic of Believing was responsible for both of our successes. We followed it letter by letter."

The Magic of Believing helped Diller develop the psychological tools to protect herself from negative people, she encased herself in a self-described "white, swan feather cape where nothing could penetrate." She learned that how we view the world directly relates to what and whom we attract in this world. "All we are surrounded by is our mental equivalent. If you think lack and want, then you're going to lack and you're going to want. I always thought luxury. Always thought beauty. Always thought lots. And I have it because I felt it. I knew it. The main thing is you must feel it. You can't just mouth it. You must act as if you already had it, which I always did. I believe in Science, balance, balance, balance."

New age claptrap, Crack. And here you are praising her at her death for believing in new age magical thinking.
Clearly, your love of her ground breaking in every sense of the word career, must be displaced since she got there through the power of positive thinking and as we all know that is bullshit and anyone who believes in that is a cult apologist.

jr565 said...

You LOVED Phyllis, Crack? CULT APOLOGIST! CULT APOLOGIST!

jr565 said...

With that out of the way, I"ll offer my condolences for a remarkable woman. She was an accomplished comedian,actress, musician and I hear she was a good painter too. Wasn't the most attractive of actresses, but suceeded anyway based purely on her personality (and belief in positive thinking).
If she was part of some cult for believe in magical thinking it didn't destroy her life, nor did it prevent her from succeeding despite believing in magical thought.And Crack, before knowing the truth, was all set to praise her for her remarkable career.

poppa india said...

Years ago, she posed for a fold-out centerfold for Field&Stream magazine, wearing nothing but a set of chest waders! I thought that showed a great sense of humor and that she didn't take herself too seriously. RIP

Quaestor said...

The Liberace/Diller duet is preceded by a short statement from "Phyllis's Fugue' which is probably much longer.

I once audited a course called Bach the Art of the Fugue which taught a bit of history and bit of theory with a big dollop of the mechanics of composition on top. Lucky I was to have been allowed to audit because my background won't quite float me over the reef of theory. Thus the composition part was to my mind mostly me trying to digest what was said the previous week let alone the current day's lecture. Something I did take away was Bach's attitude towards the training of the musician, which was the musician who couldn't compose a little fugue on any given theme was only half-educated. Furthermore counterpoint has a deterministic quality which probably bristles most musicians today, everyone convinced of his own genius in the au courant fashion. One can set out to compose a fugue and fail, that is to say whatever one sets out to compose it is either a fugue or not, even if you choose to call it a "fugue". The fugue is more akin to geometry than music. To be correct the internal logic of the composition (which must be rigid) closes the loop, so to speak, making a complete figure. Ignore the logic, go beyond it, or follow it incompletely and what you have is a non-fugue, or in geometric terms a twisty-turny doodle rather than a shape. Fascinating stuff really, I wish my brain could master it.

YoungHegelian said...

I wonder why they used an electronic harpsichord in the Liberace clip and not a "real" one?
By that time there had been a whole host of filmed harpsichord performances on TV (Landowska, Kirkpatrick, Tureck).

Was the sound of a real one considered too weird and jarring for the TV audience? Did they think that it wouldn't "work" with a baby grand? Could they just not find a harpsichord & tuner (if you move a harpsichord, you gotta tune it) in time for filming?

To me, the electronic harpsichord just sounds so weird.

Quaestor said...

(if you move a harpsichord, you gotta tune it)

There's your answer. Also there's this point: It was the Liberace Show. I've never seen it except for some YouTube clips, but judging from those I'd say it wasn't exactly a show for music lovers. Mr. Glitter's target audience probably wouldn't know a harpsichord from a clavier, or a virginal from an ottavino. Evidently Liberace didn't know either, since she twice refers to Diller's "piano". Diller, classy at heart, never corrects him.

I've heard that floating around somewhere there's a clip from the Johnny Carson Show with Phyllis Diller playing a Scarlatti sonata. Anybody here know anything about that?

On the subject of Liberace, I have to admit I can't stand to see him, hear him speak, or watch him play (though if I shut my eyes his Chopin stuff is ok). And if askewhatguy is interested, it's not my "homophobia" kicking in. Liberace had been Charlton Heston of the piano, I'd still have been repelled, uh... maybe not as much. To me Liberace was the satanic reply to Glen Gould.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Did she outlive Fang? ( Why did she call her husband Fang, anyway?)